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Gender gap narrows with coming of age

Looking for a man in Florida? Your best bet is Union County, which is 62 percent male. One small problem, though. More than one-third of its men are in prison. Looking for a woman? Try Pinellas County, which has the state's highest percentage of females. Many of them are over 65, though.

Those figures come from new 1990 census results that show females still outnumber males in Florida, 51.6 to 48.4 percent. Men are closing the gap, however, because they're living longer.

The gaps can be pretty large in some age groups.

At birth, there are typically 105 boys for every 100 girls. Throughout childhood, boys outnumber girls at every age, the Census Bureau says.

But males tend to die off more quickly than females, census studies show.

Tom Heymann, author of The Unofficial U.S. Census, a book about quirky national trends, said childhood behavior gives an early hint about why males die younger.

"Boys are much more active in risk-taking," he said. "You see the boys really getting into Ninja Turtles and the girls getting into the Little Mermaid. The boys are attracted to violence."

Heymann can even see the difference in his 3-year-old son.

"He likes to jump off of things _ a couch, table, playground sets," Heymann said. "My son is a daredevil, much more than the girls in our neighborhood."

As males get older, their share in the population shrinks.

At age 35, the number of men and women is roughly even. From then on, women outnumber men in every age group. At ages over 100, women represent 79 percent of the population.

Why do men die younger? Largely because they have higher rates of heart disease and cancer deaths, demographers say. A huge majority of wartime deaths are men.

"Every year, the (males) would have a higher chance of dying," said William Serow, head of the Center for the Study of Population at Florida State University.

In Florida in the 1990 census, nearly all coastal counties had more females than males. Counties that had male majorities tended to be small and rural. Analysts said those patterns result from:

Retirees. Women represent 59 percent of the population older than 65, so areas with older people tend to have a larger share of females.

Prisons. "You get weird demography when you put a prison in a small town" because inmates are overwhelmingly male, said Serow.

Military bases. Monroe and Okaloosa counties, which are home to a naval air station and an Air Force base, respectively, had more males than females.

Rural jobs. Those jobs attract more men than women, which gives rural areas a larger male population.

Gay men. Cities such as Key West that have sizeable populations of gay men tend to have more males than females, demographers said.

Union County topped the list for male residents because it is home to two large prisons. The Census Bureau counts inmates in the county where they're in prison because that is considered their "usual place of residence."

Females have the majority in all Suncoast counties: 52.2 percent in Citrus, 52.1 in Hernando, 52.6 in Pasco, 53.3 percent in Pinellas and 51.3 in Hillsborough.

Pinellas had the state's highest percentage of females because it has a lot of retirees, said Lee Marsh, a Pinellas County planner.

"They come down and retire and dad kicks the bucket and leaves mom by herself," Marsh said.

Does that mean Pinellas is a hot spot for single men looking to find single women?

"If you're elderly and male, yeah," he said. "But if you're young and male, probably not."